Volunteer Spotlight: Geneva


Starting their life journey in Bellevue, Washington, Geneva spent some time in West Palm Beach, Florida, before returning to the Pacific Northwest and becoming a valued member of the Teen Feed family.

Since day one, Geneva has been an upbeat, positive, and welcoming presence at Teen Feed and, on Tuesdays when they volunteer, they are often seen running to catch folks on their way out the door in an effort to connect with them before they leave.

Please join us in celebrating Geneva as our January Spotlight!

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

The first Thursday of July, I went to First Thursday art walk with Elena (an ally volunteer). Elena said she needed to be somewhere at 6:30pm to volunteer for an organization called Teen Feed. I said I could take her and would come back later to take her home when the meal was over. I walked Elena to the door and met the Meal Coordinator, Chris, who invited me to stay and check it out. So I did, and here I am.

Please note: Geneva’s first visit to Teen Feed coincided with the Meal Program’s summer “Bring a Buddy” program for advocates and allies. Under normal circumstances, unscheduled volunteer drop-ins are not permitted. Please email Chris Pearson, Meal Program Coordinator, for more information.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

It shared a lot of my values about being kind to people, and it was neat that there was a resource like this in the University District. I didn’t know organizations like this existed here.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

I ate a gluten free waffle with a ton of what might have been almond butter, and a big cup of coffee. Then I had cream of broccoli soup which is not my normal lunch.

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

It makes me want to bring other people to volunteer with Teen Feed, because it is a great program, and I think community service is important.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

The vegan meatball sub! It was so good. I remember thinking that it was the most delicious fake meat that I have ever had!

What advice would give to new volunteers?

Set boundaries, and be yourself. Don’t stress out. Just relax, but remember that boundaries are really important.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I really love the other advocates and allies. They are a great support network. When you volunteer at Teen Feed, you gain a group of friends who will care about you as adamantly as we care about the youth who come through the doors.

Youth Wishes for the New Year!

The start of the new year brings news beginnings and a chance for a fresh start! Teen Feed’s Support Coordinators took time to connect with youth to ask them what their wish is for the coming year. Our intention is to inspire youth to think past today and dream about their futures. It also helps us to identify ways in which we can guide these resilient, remarkable, and hopeful young people to lean forward into their new beginnings. It is our privilege to share a selection of youth wishes for 2015.


is for everyone in the world to be happy
is that I get housing
is for me to get my life together
is for my partner and I to be healthy and have no more injuries
is for people to not be so ignorant
is that I have sobriety
is that I have a solid living environment & employment
is for stability
is for success for me and for others
is that I get traditional housing
is that my boyfriend and I would work out
is that there will be better things to come for me
is that the people taking care of me are doing good
is that people would stop being stupid
is that I am able to get into school
is that I am able to pay my own rent
is that I am able to stay off the streets
is to have a chance to see my family
is for me to be clean
is for me to be able to do more creative problem solving
is for me to be working
is for me to become self-sufficient
is for me to become twice what I am right now
is that I can continue moving forward with my life
is for me to do no more self-harm
is for me to finally put heroin behind me
is for me to find a major purpose
is that I find a place to live
is that I find steady work
is for me to get a job and my GED
is to get a job
is for me to get into school
to for me to get a job and have peace
is for me to get my family back
is for me to get my own house
that I graduate with good grades
is get the off the streets
is for me to have a place in the world
to have a boyfriend
is for me to have a place and to actually have my son
is that I have a stable job and a place to live… very stable
is to inspire my family
is that I can just be happy
is that I keep my apartment
is that I can make an actual difference in the things we see are wrong as a society
is that I can make it through next year
that I can quit smoking
is that I can start a new life
is for me to start and complete college
is for me to have a permanent place to live
to stay in school
is that my personal life goes better
for me to have a new change

Thank you for making new beginnings possible for youth in need at Teen Feed.
To make a 100% tax-deductible gift in support of this important work, click here.
For questions about Teen Feed or the youth we serve, please reach Suzanne Sullivan at 206.949.1092 or suzanne@teenfeed.org.

Christmas Cheer at Teen Feed!

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The Christmas holidays are a time when many gather with families and celebrate good cheer.
For many youth on the streets, the family they celebrate with is Teen Feed.
In true Teen Feed style, and with the help of some special friends, we planned
special holiday treats for young people. Check out the activities and pictures below!

  • Christmas Eve Meal – Shout out to the Kavamata Meal Team of the Litov Family and Friends for creating a festive meal complete with goodie bags! Their delicious home-cooking, basic needs item goodie bags, treats, and warm company helped make youth at Teen Feed felt cared for.
  • Christmas Morning Dick’s Outreach – Every year, Teen Feed embarks on a special street outreach to connect with youth on the streets on Christmas morning. Armed with 250 warm Dick’s burgers and Teen Feed meal info, our outreach team connected with youth in the local parks and public space of Seattle’s University District. The team was met with by smiles,  deep gratitude, and even some cheers! Huge thanks to Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants for making this possible.
  • CHRISTMAS DAY MEAL – Our good friends at Etta’s and Seatown Market & FishFry Restaurants brought their culinary talents to the Teen Feed’s table for Christmas dinner. An annual tradition, these fine folks from Tom Douglas Restaurants whipped up an amazing chicken pot pie feast making a festive occasion for all the youth and volunteers in attendance. Youth also received amazing warm clothing, blankets and gloves and more from Zumiez and incredible basic needs items stockings from the Coast Guard Auxiliary!
Special Thanks To Our Incredible Partners:

Kavamata Meal team, The Litov Family, Seatown Market & FishFry, Etta’s Restaurant, Zumiez, and Coast Guard Auxiliary, Dick’s DriveIn RestaurantsUniversity Congregational Church, and our incredible volunteers for creating a family-like holiday celebration for young people with nowhere else to turn.

Teen Feed's ED Tabitha Jensen gets into the spirit of outreach STOP's Andrew and volunteer Nate prepare to hit the streets to hand out Dick's burgers The Kavamata Meal team hard at work peeling potatoes Team Kavamata working hard Pumpkin pie is at the ready Generous volunteers hard at work Teen Feed's Coordinator Chris shares infromation about the youth we serve before program starts Teen Feed's Tabitha goofs off before helping hand out special gift bags to youth Meal service begins! Heaping helpings of home cooking made the season bright! Lots of smiles in the Teen Feed kitchen The Etta's Seatown Family getting ready to serve their pot pie feast on Christmas Day!

UDSPA Holiday Party for Youth a Success!

On Monday, December 8, 2014, the University District Service Providers Alliance (UDSPA) came together to host an Annual Holiday Party for the youth we serve! The event combined silly costumes, holiday decorations, and a home cooked meal prepared by the Bastyr University Meal Team and special desserts, courtesy of UW Advancement. And thanks to an outpouring of generous support from individual community members, each of the 125 youth who attended also received a gift card to fulfill a holiday wish! 

The Holiday Party offers the warmth of family and the holidays and, for most of the youth we serve, will be the only one they have this year. So, thank you.  The party would not have been possible without the community’s support.  By doing so, you sent a clear message that you care for and support homeless youth as they work hard to change their lives.

Thank you for making this difficult time of year a little bit brighter for the homeless young people we serve! Should you have any questions, please reach our coordinators at info@teenfeed.org or call 206.949.1092.

Click Here for photos from the event.

2014 Holiday Runner

Happy Holidays!
The University District Service Providers Alliance (UDSPA) agencies,

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Volunteer Spotlight: Janet Himstead

JanetJanet Himstead grew up in New Jersey and found herself in Seattle after living in California for 12 years and also spending some time in Jamaica. Janet and her daughter, Geneva, volunteer as advocates on Wednesday nights.

Typically you will find Janet offering to take on any job that will help make the night run smoothly for our guests, often joining meal teams who need help without being asked.

Please join us in celebrating Janet as this month’s Volunteer Spotlight!

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

I started in July of this year. What inspired me was Geneva, and just being able to give back. I have always felt like I have been lucky.  Cheesy I know.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was amazed at how many guests took advantage of the program. I wasn’t really aware of the situation in Seattle, especially with youth. My first night, I was both excited and nervous. I shadowed Nate Whitson (advocate). The tone of the meal was quiet, but reassuring, in that this was a good place to be and a good way for me to help.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

Biscuits and sausage gravy with pickled jalapeños and a drip coffee. Food is important, another reason why Teen Feed was a good choice for me. I started cooking at ten because there was not enough food in the house. I could open the refrigerator and see all the food in it, because there wasn’t that much. So I learned to cook and share food with people as a gift. Coming to Teen Feed is important to me, because I am able to share that gift of food and having community with people. The one time of day you can have a break from the craziness and enjoy yourself. Some of my favorite Teen Feed moments have been when I have helped out meal teams and have been able to cook for our guests.

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

It’s made me so much more aware that everybody is not what they seem. We all have a backstory, and, while I don’t need to know that backstory, it’s good to know that there is one.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

I don’t usually eat when I am at Teen Feed.

What advice would give to new volunteers?

Be yourself. Don’t hold back, and be able to gauge your audience. I am obviously a mom; it’s written all over me.  And I am a mom to everyone. I was afraid the guests would reject me for that. I think it’s been helpful for guests to see that Geneva is my daughter and that some adults are good. The biggest advice I have is to do this! Volunteer with Teen Feed and take the time to develop relationships that you would otherwise not develop.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share?

I am so grateful that I decided to volunteer with Teen Feed, and will continue to for as long as we can.

Message from Tabitha Jensen: Make the Season *Bright* for Youth in Need

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Tabitha Jensen, Teen Feed Executive Director

Dear Friends,

The Teen Feed team has been maintaining a safety net for more homeless, street-involved and food insecure youth in Seattle and King County than ever before, welcoming over 800 unduplicated youth through our doors and serving over 20,000 meals to date this year. We are incredibly grateful for individuals like you, who help make meals, support, basic needs items, and a caring community available for youth in need 365 days a year.

I have a favor to ask of you… As you gather around many tables this season, celebrating family, togetherness, and bounty, I encourage you to think of the youth and young adults at Teen Feed working hard for their futures.  The Teen Feed table is where youth have their needs met, share their hopes and fears, talk through their problems, and celebrate their successes. At Teen Feed, youth are learning to how to make good choices and create a better life for themselves, one warm meal at a time.

I am inspired by a letter I recently received from the parent of a former Teen Feed guest. She writes: “Know you are very important and your work counts…because of you [my son] had an evening meal – you were his Mom when I couldn’t be.”

Thanks to you, Teen Feed is family to youth who have no one else to turn to. We invite you to make a direct and positive impact in the lives of young people this season!

  • Basic Needs Black Friday – Include youth in your holiday gift list on-line or in stores on the biggest shopping day of the year! Click here for a list of basic needs and more info.
  • Holiday Gift Cards for YouthMake the season bright by fulfilling a youth’s $40 holiday gift request. The gift cards will be wrapped and handed out individually to each youth at the 2014 UDSPA Holiday Party for Youth. Click here to learn more.
  •  Make a Gift to Teen Feed – We need your help to meet the needs of an increasing number of youth 365 days a year. Your 100% tax-deductible donation will make a difference in the lives of youth who need it the most. Click here to get started.
  • Give the Gift of Teen Feed Give the gift of hope this season by donating to Teen Feed on behalf of a loved one. We will send a special card to you or the recipients of your choice, recognizing the gift and its impact, to be accompanied by an inspirational youth story.  Donate online and reach Suzanne Sullivan at suzanne@teeenfeed.org or 206.949.1092 to arrange the details of your holiday card.

On behalf of the Teen Feed family, we wish you and yours a holiday season FULL of love, celebration, connectedness, and hope! If you have any questions about our programs or how you can make a more significant impact, I welcome you to reach me at tabitha@teenfeed.org or 206.522.4366.

Tabitha Signature

Tabitha Jensen
Executive Director
Teen Feed

PS) Please share this message with anyone who may want to support youth in need this season. Thanks! 

Sock & Basic Needs Item Drives for Youth!

Teen Feed works to offer basic needs items and daily essential to help homeless youth care for themselves. Teen Feed distributes basic needs items to youth at the nightly meal program, during street outreach, and in our office as youth access support coordination.

Teen Feed works to offer basic needs items and daily essential to help homeless youth care for themselves. Teen Feed distributes basic needs items to youth at the nightly meal program, during street outreach, and in our office as youth access support coordination.

We rely on your help to provide basic needs items to the youth we see every day! Please consider holding a supply drive for youth. A supply drive may be collecting coats and sleeping bags at your office, home or social group, or sending an email to friends requesting travel toiletries. Whatever a supply drive may look like to you, know you are providing youth the daily essentials they desperately need. We have included downloadable signage and resources to help you with with your Sock or Basic Needs Drives.

Basic Needs Drive Resources:
Basic Needs Items for Youth:

Click Here for our Basic Needs Amazon Wishlist

Travel Sized toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner
Combs and brushes
Dental Floss
Hand Sanitizer
Tampons & pads
Nail Clippers
African American hair-care products

New Socks – all sizes
Gloves, hats, scarves
Disposable hand warmers
Hooded sweatshirts (L to XXXL, dark colors)
Warm coats
New underwear/boxers
Bras – all sizes

Other necessities:
Sleeping bags
Batteries – AA, AAA
Battery operated alarm clocks
Travel-sized sewing kits
Work boots
Bus tickets
Dry dog and cat food
Hot Cocoa
Instant Oatmeal
Powder Creamer

Donation Drop-Off Schedule

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30pm to 6:15pm, University Congregation Church – 4515 16th Ave NE (@NE 45th), prior to the Teen Feed meal program. Donation contact: Chris, 206.229.0813, chris@teenfeed.org

Need help? We are happy to create something custom for your group! Please reach Suzanne Sullivan at suzanne@teenfeed.org or 206.949.1092 for more information.

Socks in Short Supply This Winter

interns in outreachOn at least three days a week, Teen Feed’s Street Talk Outreach Program (STOP) hits the U-District streets with food and socks to give away as they meet homeless young people in the streets and alleys where they spend time.  We see it as an opportunity to connect with the most at-risk youth, who, as a result of past trauma, may be more distrustful of adults and more resistant to accessing traditional social services than their peers.

The STOP team has noticed an incredible increase in the number of contacts we make with youth during outreach.   By the end of 2014, STOP is now on target to make nearly 2,400 contacts with homeless youth through outreach, which is a 50% increase from last year!  That means STOP will distribute 50% more socks this year as well!  That’s a lot of socks! 

With the winter months fast approaching, youth need dry, warm socks now more than ever.  Current supplies will not last long!

Teen Feed’s STOP team relies on generous community members like you to supply the basic needs items that homeless youth so desperately need.  Here are three ways to get involved.

All three ways of giving are vital to the success of this program, and every single donation received will help keep a homeless, young person warm and dry this winter.  Please consider giving the gift of protection from severe weather this winter.

Volunteer Spotlight: Rhonda Ellis

We are very happy to announce that Advocate Volunteer, Rhonda Ellis, is November’s Volunteer Spotlight.   Rhonda is originally from Kansas City, Missouri.  She has always wanted to live close to the mountains, and, ever since being recruited by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center 16 years ago, she has enjoyed calling Seattle her home. Rhonda has been a nurse since 1981, and brings her skills and amazing bed side manner to her interactions with guest and volunteers alike.

When did you start at Teen Feed? What inspired you to volunteer with us?

It’s been over a year. June of 2013 is when I started. At Fred Hutch, we have an employee bulletin board. Lisa, another advocate, had posted a request for shoe donations and a little information about Teen Feed, and I thought, “That’s cool.” That’s how I learned about Teen Feed.

I had always wanted to find a way to support people around finding options, and this has been great. Through my own experiences, I know this is important work. Whether it’s someone needing a role model or a familiar face of someone who listens to them, I can be there to offer something. It’s awkward for me sometimes, trying to figure out how to connect with different guests. Sometimes I feel like a square trying to fit into a circle, but I am learning.

What was your impression of Teen Feed when you started?

I was really (and I still am) in awe, of the education, training, and support that Teen Feed provides to us as volunteers. That’s been really impressive! The de-escalation training, “The Ropes: Understanding Youth Homelessness” training, the anti-racism and privilege training.  These trainings are such great educational opportunities. I have really appreciated how the program coordinators are able to track the emotional well being of both guests and volunteers during meals, with everything that is going on. I noticed how intentional Teen Feed staff is about the setup of the meal space and making sure guests and volunteers feel safe and welcome.

We love food here at Teen Feed. What did you eat today?

Only this latte!

How does volunteering at Teen Feed affect other parts of your life?

Exposure to diversity has been great for me. The guests have taught me a lot about how to be more open and more comfortable. I had always thought I was pretty open to different things, but I have really learned a lot, and it’s because of Teen Feed’s influence.

What is your favorite meal you have at Teen Feed?

I like the meals that have lots of vegetables, and I notice that the guests like them too! I like to eat healthy. It is nice to have colorful choices with the meals. The Bastyr Meal Team just outdoes itself with all the fresh colorful vegetables they bring in.

What advice would you give to new volunteers?

Take advantage of the trainings, use the debrief sessions, and, if you have questions or concerns, make sure you talk to your program coordinator or Chris (U District Meal Programs Coordinator).

Teen Feed’s More than a Meal Luncheon a Success!

Thank you to everyone who attended!  Teen Feed’s 2nd Annual “More than a Meal” Luncheon raised over $50,000 to meet the immediate needs of King County youth in need!  Our speakers, Mythayah and Carnella inspired community for youth and bravely shared how Teen Feed helped them to meet their futures!

Take a look at this slideshow of beautiful photos taken at the event by Tilly Goble of Naissance Studios!

Thanks to our generous sponsors, 100% of the dollars raised will directly support Teen Feed’s meal, outreach, support, and healthcare coordination programs.  If you were unable to attend the Luncheon, click here to make a gift in support of basic needs for young people.

Thank You to Our Generous Sponsors!

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Special thanks to:

Swansons Nursery
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